A parent heard his son praying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you get your name?” The children substituted a familiar question for the unfamiliar word hallowed. But he was right. Hallowing is about naming, about finding words for our experience of God present and active within, beyond, around, among, between us.
To hallow is to keep holy. To hallow God’s name is to bless or praise God, to recognize God’s awesome presence and appreciate the gift of being alive. It is the work of finding words for what God, who has acted in our history, is doing in us and our world today. Hallowing is naming grace.
In the Our Father, Jesus speaks as one of us humans and calls us to hallow God’s name, keep it holy, appreciate God’s presence and gifts transparent in our lives and worlds. Many commentators stress how unique Jesus is in addressing as Father and imagine God as a bellowed, trustworthy parent. In reality, Jesus is a practicing Jew, formed by the language, prayer, and scripture of his people. The Old Testament frequently draws on the language of both fathering and mothering to name and describe Israel’s relationship with God. In Exodus 4.22, God has Moses tell Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son. Let my son go that he may serve me.” On the road to the Promised Land, Moses complains to God, “Did I conceive all this people. Did I bring them forth?” (Numbers 11.12-14). In the Song of Moses, the conclusion of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, Moses asks the people, “Is not God your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” and continues with a comparison of God to the mother and father eagles who teach their young to fly by fluttering their wings to stir them from the nest and spread their wings to catch them (Deuteronomy 32.6-12).
These paternal and maternal images continue throughout the teachings of the prophets until in the last centuries before Jesus’ time, a new kind of writing called Wisdom literature arose. Books such as Wisdom, Proverbs, and Sirach personify Wisdom as a woman who is with God from the beginning in all the work of creation, a world-pervasive spirit who finds a dwelling place among the people of Israel. Like the faithful wife in Proverbs 31, so often read at the funerals of wives and mothers, Lady Wisdom provides rich food, choice wine, and warm clothes for her household. Creation is Wisdom’s table, set in abundance for all.
Applied to Jesus, the Wisdom imagery loses its origins in woman’s experience. However, Jesus continues Wisdom’s work welcoming all to his table, providing gallons of the best wine at Cana and loaves to feed multitudes.
In Christian tradition we name God Trinity. We understand that Father, Son, and Spirit are names that express the interrelatedness of the three persons in one divine nature, three persons in one love. The relationships within God are like a circle dance, full of life-giving and love-giving movement. God is dynamic, with and for us in our becoming all we can be. We hallow God as Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit. Lover, Beloved, Love between them. Birther, Baby, Breath of Life.
In the Our Father Jesus invites us free and conscious humans to hold holy the mystery of divine love and partner in its unfolding. God gifts us with a capacity to love and the power and promise of Jesus’ self-giving. The Our Father is a prayer of faith that we come from God and go to God, that we live in a creative love that buoys us up like water and pervades our lives unseen, but is as present and vital as the air we breathe. We live in the promise that we matter, in a holy whole greater than our small parts.
When and where have you experienced awe? Describe the experience. What of the holy have you glimpsed in your life during the last 24 hours? Find God’s holiness in the signs of spring around you. Birds building nests, water streaming, warm sunlight, flowers appearing.
Make a commitment to recall before you go to sleep 10 experiences of God that day. Remember your experiences of beauty, your meetings with mystery in yourself and others, your communion with nature, your moments of insight. Thank God for them.